STUDY SEVEN: AMOS 6:1 – 14

© Rosemary Bardsley 2021

A. THE NOTABLE MEN

In chapter 6, while again mentioning the corruption of justice, Amos gives us further insight into the sins of Israel. In chapter 4 he had addressed the opulent, heartless women, now he addresses the equally wealthy and equally heartless men of both Jerusalem (Zion), the capital of Judah, and Samaria, the capital of Israel.

[Note: ‘Joseph’ in verse 6 is a reference to the northern kingdom, Israel. ‘Joseph’ is used because the territory allocated to the tribe of his son Ephraim was the largest in Israel. ‘Jacob’ (verse 8) was the name of Abraham’s grandson, whom God had renamed ‘Israel’ (Genesis 32:28). It most likely refers to both Israel and Judah.]

Read Amos 6:1 – 7. Answer these questions:
What kind of men is Amos addressing? (verse 1)

 

Suggest why Amos refers to the other places in verse 2.

 

What does Amos say that indicates they were in a state of denial about the threat of judgement?

 

What does Amos say that indicates that they were actually bringing the judgement closer?

 

How does Amos describe their luxurious lifestyle? (verses 4 – 6a)

 

What was lacking? (verse 6b)

What is their fate? (verse 7)

From verses 1 – 7, can you see anything that indicates complacency or pride?

 

 

The ‘notable’ men, wealthy and in positions of authority, had lulled themselves into a sense of false security. In their self-sufficiency and arrogance they did not realize that their own actions hastened the judgement that they thought would never happen. While in chapter 5, there was false security based on religious rituals, here we see a false security arising from their wealth and luxury, and also from their strong fortresses (verse 8).

But their enjoyment of their wealth has also blinded them to the state of the nation. Even though other nations have succumbed to attack, they presume to think their own nations, Israel and Judah, cannot be touched

Verses 2 and 3:

John Calvin wrote about verse 2:

‘By this representation Amos shows that there was no excuse for the Jews or the Israelites for sleeping in their sins, inasmuch as they could see, as it were in a mirror, the judgments which God brought on heathen nations. ... He says, that Calneh and Hamath, and Gath, were remarkable evidences of God’s wrath, by which the Israelites might learn, that they had no reason to rest on their wealth, to rely on their fortresses, and to think themselves free from all dangers; for as God had destroyed these cities, which seemed impregnable, so he could also cut off Jerusalem and Samaria, whenever he pleased. This is the real meaning of the prophet. ... It availed these cities nothing, that they were wealthy, that they were fortified by all kinds of defences; for God, at last, executed vengeance on them. Hence the prophet declares that the same was now nigh the Jews and the Israelites....

‘”What will hinder the hand of God,” he says, “from delivering to you destruction? For if men could have arrested God’s wrath by any fortresses, certainly Calneh and Hamath, and Gath, would have resisted by their forces; but the Lord has yet executed his vengeance on these cities, though fortified; your confidence then is nothing but infatuation, which deceives you.”’

And on verse 3:
‘Amos charges here the principal men of the two kingdoms with two crimes, - that they ceased not to provoke continually the wrath of God by subverting and casting under foot all equity, and by ruling the people in a tyrannical and haughty manner, - and that, in the meantime, they heedlessly despised all threatening, prolonged time, and promised impunity to themselves: even when God seriously and sharply addressed them, they still thought that the evil day was not nigh. ... They indeed thought that the prophets did not seriously threaten them; but they regarded the mention of a near destruction as an empty bug bear.’
(John Calvin, p376 – 378, Calvin’s Commentaries – The Minor Prophets, AP&A.)

Verses 4 – 6
In these verses Amos depicts the wealth of these notable men by a number of references:

Their ‘beds inlaid with ivory’ points to the luxuriousness/expensiveness of the furnishings in their houses.

The fact that they ‘lounge’ on their couches, and ‘strum away on their harps’ and ‘improvise on musical instruments’ points to fact that they have time on their hands. They do not have to work hard from dawn to dusk; they have servants, paid employees, who do all the work.

Their food is the very best – ‘choice lambs’, ‘fattened calves’.

The fact that they ‘drink wine by the bowlful’ points to both their wealth and their idleness.

And their use of ‘the finest lotions’ points to their wealth and their self-absorption.

But, despite all their wealth and all the time they have on their hands, they ‘do not grieve over the ruin of the nation’. They do not grieve over the corruption of justice; they do not grieve over the corruption of worship. They do not grieve over the suffering poor. And they do not grieve over the imminent destruction of the nation that the prophets announce.

It is not their wealth that is wrong. Rather it is the heartlessness, the lack of compassion and the lack of faith, that accompanied it.

Reflection about your community or country:
Are the majority of the people wealthy, poor, or in between?

What parallels of Amos’ descriptions in verses 4 – 6 are evident?

 

What evidence is there of heartlessness towards those in need?

 

What is your church doing to reach the poor/needy/underprivileged?

 

Note anything that causes you grief when you observe the direction your country/community is heading.

 

[Go to this study for what the Bible says about Christians and money: https://www.godswordforyou.com/living-for-jesus/setting-biblical-foundations/897-christian-spirituality-and-money.html ]

 

B. THE WARNING

Read Amos 6:8 – 14. Answer these questions:
What gives seriousness and certainty to the warnings of judgement? (verse 8a)

 

What does God hate? (verse 8b)

 

What does God intend to do? (verse 8b)

 

How is the completeness of the destruction described? (verses 9 – 11)

 

Suggest why Amos talks about horses and oxen on rocky crags (verse 12).

 

 

Just as in 4:2 God sore ‘by his holiness’, so in 6:8 he swears ‘by himself’. The solemnity of these oaths is great. There is nothing greater than God that he could swear by. There is no stronger oath that he could make. Israel has added to sin to sin – false gods, false worship, social injustice, heartlessness towards the needy in the context of personal luxury and wealth – and now, in verse 8, prideful dependence on the strength of their own man-made security, their fortresses, instead of grounding their security in God.

Everything, says the Lord, will be destroyed: the city, the fortresses, the wealth, houses large and small. Nothing will be left. So devastating will be the destruction, so overwhelming, that the few survivors will not even dare to mention the name of the LORD (verse 10). They will be utterly confused. All their confidence, all their pride, all their sense of being invincible will be shattered.

But even as he tells them that, he also tells them that everything they have been doing is contrary to their own well-being (verse 12):

Do horses run on rocks? he asks. No. That is contrary to both nature and common sense.

Does anyone plough on rocks with oxen? No. That also is contrary to both nature and common sense.

But they have done something equally senseless and equally futile:

You have turned justice into poison: Your justice system is so corrupt that it harms rather than helps.

You have turned the fruit of righteousness into bitterness: By your corruption and twisted values you have made life bitter for the righteous. You have discouraged the very thing that exalts a nation (Proverbs 14:34).

And also, equally senseless (verse 13):

They rejoice in something that is actually nothing (LoDebar means ‘nothing’).
That is, they rejoice in their own supposed, but non-existent, strength.

The lament and the calls to repentance in chapter 5 have fallen on deaf ears, as God knew they would. So again the certain judgement is announced in verse 14. God, the Almighty, the LORD of hosts, will stir up a nation that will oppress the whole land – from Hamath (which was in the north) to the valley of Arabah (which was in the south).

 

REFLECTION
What have you learned about God from this study – who he is and what he does?

 

 

What have you learned about the right human response to God?

 

 

What have you learned about the wrong human response to God?

 

 

What have you learned about right and wrong treatment of your fellow humans?

 

 

Where are you positioned, personally, regarding the three pevious questions?

 

 

What relevance does this chapter have for your church and your country today?